Buddhism FAQ0 >> 25.Eightfold Path
(Frequently Asked Questions About Buddhism)
What is the Eightfold Path in Buddhism?
Ans: The Eightfold path is the step by step method for awakening as described by Lord Buddha. It is mentioned in Samyutta Nikaya Chapter 5 verse 8. It comprises of 1.Right view 2.Right intention 3.Right speech 4.Right action 5.Right livelihood 6.Right effort 7.Right meditation(sati) 8.Right samadhi(trance)state
See : SN5-V2-Ch1-Samyutta45
Samyutta Nikaya Chapter 5 Verse 8
8. Sāvatthinidānaṃ. ‘‘Ariyaṃ vo, bhikkhave, aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ desessāmi vibhajissāmi. Taṃ suṇātha, sādhukaṃ manasi karotha; bhāsissāmī’ti.
Word Meanings:Sāvatthi(sans.Sravasti)=At Sravasti town;Ariyaṃ(sans.Arya)=Noble,exalted; aṭṭhaṅgik(sans.Ashtangik)=Asht(eight) angik(fold,limbs); magga(sans.Marg)=Path; desessāmi=preaching; vibhaji(sans.vibhajit)=analysis, part by part; suṇā(sans.sravan)=Listen; manasi karo=be mindful,put in mind;
Translation:At Savatthi. (Lord Buddha said)"Bhikkhus(monks), I will teach you the Noble Eightfold Path(Ariyo Atthangikam maggam sans. Arya Ashtangik Marg) and I will analyse it for you. Listen to that and be mindful(manasikaro), I will speak."
Evaṃ, bhante’’ti kho te bhikkhū bhagavato paccassosuṃ. Bhagavā etadavoca –
Word Meanings:Evam=Yes,sure; bhante(sans.bhagwant)=Lord,God; bhagava(sans.bhagwan)=Lord,God;
Translation:"Yes, venerable sir," those bhikkhus replied. The Lord (Buddha) said this:
Katamo ca, bhikkhave, ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo? Seyyathidaṃ – sammādiṭṭhi, sammāsaṅkappo, sammāvācā, sammākammanto, sammāājīvo, sammāvāyāmo, sammāsati, sammāsamādhi.
Word Meanings: Katamo=what; ca=and; sammā(sans.samyak)=right,righteous; ditthi(sans.drishti)=view,understanding; saṅkappo(sans.sankalp)=intention; vācā(sans.vacan)=speech; kamma(sans.karm)=action,deeds; ājīvo(sans.ajivika)=livelihood,earning; vāyāmo=effort; sati(sans.smriti)=meditation practice; samadhi=Trance state(in meditation)
Translation:"And what, bhikkhus, is the Noble Eightfold Path? 1.Right view, 2.right intention, 3.right speech, 4.right action, 5.right livelihood, 6.right effort, 7.right meditation(sati) and 8.right samadhi(trance)state.
1.Right View(samma-ditthi sans. samyak-drishti)
Katamā ca, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi? Yaṃ kho, bhikkhave, dukkhe ñāṇaṃ, dukkhasamudaye ñāṇaṃ , dukkhanirodhe ñāṇaṃ, dukkhanirodhagāminiyā paṭipadāya ñāṇaṃ – ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi.
Word Meanings:dukkh=sorrow,suffering; ñāṇa(sans.gyan)=knowledge; samuday=origination; nirodh=cessation,ending; paṭipadā(sans.pratipadan)=steps to follow,path; vuccati=called
Translation:"And what, bhikkhus, is right view(sammaditthi sans. samyak-drishti)? Knowledge of suffering, knowledge of the origin of suffering, knowledge of the cessation(nirodha) of suffering, knowledge of the way(path) leading to the cessation of suffering: this is called right view.
Note1:Knowledge of suffering(dukkhe ñāṇaṃ)-Suffering exists in the world, birth is suffering , every child cries at birth. Life is full of sorrows such as disease, misfortune, grief, old age & finally one needs to leave the body(at death).
Note2&3:knowledge of the origin of suffering(dukkhasamudaye ñāṇaṃ) and knowledge of the cessation of suffering(dukkhanirodhe ñāṇaṃ) - These are called Chain of Causation(Paticchasamuppadam),See Mahavogga 1.1 (also in verse 1 & 2 of SN2-Ch1-Samyutta12).
Note5:This first path is about 4 Noble Truths prevalent in the world (and their knowledge) especially about the path, that there exists a path leading to cessation of suffering i.e. true blissfulness, however it is revealed later in meditation as the samadhi(trance) state (the eighth path describes at end of this page) , till it is achieved, practice of meditation with faith in path is to be accepted.
Note6:An important point which is not mentioned in the texts is that the the focus of path of Buddha is on sensation(vedana) of the cycle of Chain of Causation(Paticchasamuppadam) but it is only taught during the training of meditation practice. This is one link within the chain which when overcome, then all links & the cycle can be overcome and this is what is practised during the Vipassana meditation repeatedly mentioned by Lord Buddha in Tipitaka.
Note7:Detailed instructions of Lord Buddha on the 4 noble truths are also in Abhidhamma pitaka in Vibhanga chapter : Vibhanga-Chap.4-Sacca
Note8:Detailed instructions of Lord Buddha on the Path is also in Abhidhamma pitaka in Vibhanga chapter : Vibhanga-Chap.4-Path
2.Right Intention(samma-sankappo sans. samyak-sankalp)
Katamo ca, bhikkhave, sammāsaṅkappo? Yo kho, bhikkhave, nekkhammasaṅkappo , abyāpādasaṅkappo, avihiṃsāsaṅkappo – ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, sammāsaṅkappo.
Word Meanings: nekkhamma(sans.nishkramana)=renunciation i.e giving up or withdrawal from the worldly sensual desires/pleasures; abyāpāda(sans.avyapada)=non-ill will; avihiṃsā(sans.ahimsa)=harmlessness,non-violence.
Translation:"And what, bhikkhus, is right intention(sammasankappo sans. samyak-sankalp)? Intention of renunciation, intention of non-ill will, intention of harmlessness(non-violent attitude): this is called right intention.
Note1: This is about not running after the pleasures of material world and also generating goodwill towards all creatures(forgiveness also implied). Here Non-violence appears to be about not hurting any creature as well as developing mind of compassion towards all.
Note2: For renunciation, see Abhidhamma-Yamaka-Ch7-Part3-Renunciation
3.Right Speech(samma-vaca sans. samyak-vacan)
Katamā ca, bhikkhave, sammāvācā? Yā kho, bhikkhave, musāvādā veramaṇī, pisuṇāya vācāya veramaṇī, pharusāya vācāya veramaṇī, samphappalāpā veramaṇī – ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, sammāvācā.
Word Meanings: musā(sans.mithya); vādā(sans.vādan)=speech; veramaṇī=abstinence; pisuṇā=divisive; pharusā=harsh; samphappa=idle,useless; alāpā=chatter,talk;
Translation:"And what, bhikkhus, is right speech(sammavaca sans. samyak-vacan)? Abstinence from false speech, abstinence from divisive speech, abstinence from harsh speech, abstinence from idle chatter: this is called right speech.
Note: Words hurt more than weapons so one needs to be careful.
4.Right Action(samma-kammanto sans. samyak-karma)
Katamo ca, bhikkhave, sammākammanto? Yā kho, bhikkhave, pāṇātipātā veramaṇī, adinnādānā veramaṇī, abrahmacariyā veramaṇī – ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, sammākammanto.
Word Meanings: pāṇā(sans.prana)=life; pātā(sans.pātān)=killing; adinnā=not given; dānā=taking; abrahmacariyā=non-celibacy,sexual arousal & act;
Translation:"And what, bhikkhus, is right action(sammakammanto sans. samyak-karma) ? Abstinence from the destruction(khaya\kshaya) of life, abstinence from taking what is not given, abstinence from sexual misconduct (Pali:abrahmacariyā actual meaning non-celibacy ) this is called right action.
Note : Abrahmacariyā is about non-celibacy. For Celibacy see : Parajika Book 1. Non-violence appears again here because taking life of any creature is very bad deed which leads to bad consequences. For non-violence see : Buddhism FAQ24 Violence
5.Right Livelihood(samma-ajivo sans. samyak-ajivika)
Katamo ca, bhikkhave, sammāājīvo? Idha, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako micchāājīvaṃ pahāya sammāājīvena jīvitaṃ kappeti – ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, sammāājīvo.
Word Meanings: Idha=here; sāvak(sans. sravak)=disciple; micchā(sans.mithya)=wrong; pahāy=abandon,stop; ājīvena jīvitaṃ=livlihood;
Translation:"And what, bhikkhus, is right livelihood(sammaajivo sans. samyak-ajivika)? Here a noble disciple, having abandoned a wrong mode of livelihood, earns his living by a right livelihood: this is called right livelihood.
Note:For common people, the right livelihood means that it should not violate other instructions here i.e. non-violence, sexual misconduct, stealing, false speech etc. especially it should not hurt anyone. For monks, additionally, they should live on donation only.
6.Right Effort(samma-vayamo sans. samyak-vyayam)
Katamo ca, bhikkhave, sammāvāyāmo? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu anuppannānaṃ pāpakānaṃ akusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ anuppādāya chandaṃ janeti vāyamati vīriyaṃ ārabhati cittaṃ paggaṇhāti padahati, uppannānaṃ pāpakānaṃ akusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ pahānāya chandaṃ janeti…pe… anuppannānaṃ kusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ uppādāya chandaṃ janeti…pe… uppannānaṃ kusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ ṭhitiyā asammosāya bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya bhāvanāya pāripūriyā chandaṃ janeti vāyamati vīriyaṃ ārabhati cittaṃ paggaṇhāti padahati – ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, sammāvāyāmo.
Word Meanings: anuppannā(sans.anutpanna)=unarisen; pāp=sinful,evil,wrong; akusal(sans.akushal)=harmful; dhamma(sans.dharma)=states; anuppād(sans.anutpad)=nonarising; chanda=desire; vīriya=energetic-strength; citta=mind,awareness; uppannā(sans.utpanna)=arisen; pahānā(sans.prahan)=removal,abandoning; kusalā=beneficial; uppād(sans.utpad)=arising; uppannā(sans.utpann)=arisen; ṭhiti=maintaining; vepullā(sans.vipulya)=increase; pāripūriyā=fulfilment;
Translation:"And what, bhikkhus, is right effort(sammavayamo sans. samyak-vyayam)? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu(monk) generates desire for the non-arising of unarisen evil harmful(akusala sans. akushal) states; he makes an effort, arouses energetic-strength(viriya), applies his mind, and strives.
He generates desire for the abandoning of arisen evil harmful(akusala) states; he makes an effort, arouses energetic-strength(viriya), applies his mind, and strives.
He generates desire for the arising of unarisen beneficial(kusala) states; he makes an effort, arouses energetic-strength(viriya), applies his mind, and strives.
He generates desire for the maintenance of arisen beneficial(kusala) states, for their nondecay, increase, expansion, and fulfilment by development; he makes an effort, arouses energetic-strength, applies his mind, and strives.
This is called right effort.
Note1: This is about energetic-strength(viriya) & first hand understanding developed during the striving of attaining all above & also during meditation process.
Note2: Also See Vibhanga-Chap.8-Striving for right effort.
Katamā ca, bhikkhave, sammāsati? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu kāye kāyānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ; vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ; citte cittānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ; dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā, vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ – ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, sammāsati.
Word Meanings: kāye=on the body; kāyānupassī=kaya(body) watching(in meditation); viharati=dwells,remains; ātāpī=ardent; sampajāno(sans.sampurna gyan)= completely comprehending(mind&body); satimā(sans.smritivān); vedanāsu=on sensations; vedanānupassī=vedanā(sensation) watching(in meditation); citte=on mind; cittānupassī=cittā(mind) watching(in meditation);dhammesu=on phenomena(dhamma),states; dhammānupassī=dhammā(phenomena) watching(in meditation);
Translation:"And what, bhikkhus is right meditation(sati)? (1)Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwells watching-in-meditation(anupassi) on the body(kaya) in the body, ardent, completely comprehending (sampajano), meditative(satima), having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world.
(2)He dwells watching-in-meditation on sensations(vedana) in sensations(vedana), ardent, completely comprehending (sampajano), meditative, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world.
(3)He dwells watching-in-meditation on mind(thoughts) in mind, ardent, completely comprehending (sampajano), meditative, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world.
(4)He dwells watching-in-meditation on phenomena(dhamma i.e. cause & effect) in phenomena(dhamma), ardent, completely comprehending (sampajano), meditative, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. This is called right meditation(sati).
Note1: Sati is about the core meditation processes also called Samatha & Vipassana. This Lord Buddha has mentioned everywhere in Pali Tipitaka, it is to be understood that wherever Lord Buddha uses the word anupassi or passati it means Vipassana type meditation.
Note2: Kāyānupassī - The first part of meditation practice. The student learns to watch(focus) on the one's own kaya(bodyform) within such as expanding & contracting the body with breath naturally.
Note3: Vedanānupassī - Here the student learns to watch on sensations(vedana) occurring all over & within one's own bodyform with even mind(equanimity) neither liking nor disliking. Some translators are wrongly translating vedana as feeling which is a subjective aspect but real meaning of vedana originates from the word sam-vedana and so it means sensation. Whenever Vipassana meditation is taught, the focus is on sensations occurring within the bodyform so it is to be understood that way.
Note4: Cittānupassī - Here the student learns to watch the thoughts in mind & also to silence these with equanimity. Some people experience repeating wrong thoughts , song or of desire etc running in mind which need to be stopped.
Note5: Dhammānupassī - Here the student starts learning the phenomenon(dhamma) & laws within that there exist links i.e. cause & effect relationship between (a)sensations & thoughts with (b) emotions & desires etc. i.e. how indulging in one aspect gives rise to other states ; how not indulging leads to non-arise of other phenomenon. This is a practical matter and one should again refer to Chain of Causation(Paticchasamuppadam) mentioned in first path above. An example: A certain pleasing type of touch sensation will cause connected pleasing thoughts to arise and also its connected desire. Another certain type of unpleasant touch will cause connected unpleasing thoughts and its desire to dispel it. Sometimes effects of a cause(act) can take many hours to come up.
Note6: Some translators are wrongly translating the word sati as something else. Please stop. Sati means meditation practice. This one mistake changes everything so be very careful. The word sati originates from sanskrit word smriti but its application is meditative state.
Note7:Also see Vibhanga-Chap.7-Sati-Patthana in Abhidhamma for establishment of Sati(meditation).
8.Right Samadhi(samma-samadhi sans. samyak-samadhi)
Katamo ca, bhikkhave, sammāsamādhi? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. Vitakkavicārānaṃ vūpasamā ajjhattaṃ sampasādanaṃ cetaso ekodibhāvaṃ avitakkaṃ avicāraṃ samādhijaṃ pītisukhaṃ dutiyaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. Pītiyā ca virāgā upekkhako ca viharati sato ca sampajāno, sukhañca kāyena paṭisaṃvedeti, yaṃ taṃ ariyā ācikkhanti – ‘upekkhako satimā sukhavihārī’ti tatiyaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. Sukhassa ca pahānā dukkhassa ca pahānā pubbeva somanassadomanassānaṃ atthaṅgamā adukkhamasukhaṃ upekkhāsatipārisuddhiṃ catutthaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati – ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, sammāsamādhī’ti. Aṭṭhamaṃ.
Word Meanings: vivicceva=secluded from; kāmehi=sensual pleasures; savitakkaṃ=with examination; savicāraṃ=with thoughts; pīti(sans.preeti)=bliss; sukha=happiness; paṭhama(sans.pratham)=first; jhāna(sans.dhyan)=trance in meditation; ekodibhāvaṃ=singularity-of-mind; virāgā=without desire; upekkhako=equanimous; sato=meditative; paṭisaṃvedeti=experiences; tatiya(sans.tritiya)=third; pārisuddhi=purification; catuttha(sans.caturtha)=fourth;
Translation:"And what, bhikkhus, is right samadhi(trance)state(sammasamadhi sans. samyak-samadhi)? Here, bhikkhus, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from harmful(akusala) states, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the (1)first jhana, which is accompanied by thought and examination, with bliss(piti/preeti) and happiness(sukh) born of seclusion(within).
(2)With the subsiding of thought and examination, he enters and dwells in the second jhana, which has internal confidence and singularity-of-mind(ekodibhavam), is without thought and examination, and has bliss and happiness born of the samadhi(trance)state.
(3)With the fading away as well of bliss(piti/preeti), he dwells equanimous and, meditative and completely comprehending (sampajano), he experiences happiness with the body; he enters and dwells in the third jhana of which the noble ones declare: 'He is equanimous, meditative(satima), one who dwells happily.'
(4)With the abandoning of happiness and sorrow, and with the previous passing away of joy and displeasure, he enters and dwells in the fourth jhana, which ls neither painful nor pleasant and includes the purification of meditation(sati) by equanimity(upekkha).
This is called right samadhi(trance)state."
Note1: Here samadhi is explained as the superset of the Jhana(Japanese:Zen, Hindi: Dhyan) trance states, here 4 mentioned out of total 9. The important idea is that the Trance states are developed using the holy paths & methods using all above noble/benign eightfold paths, nowhere any harm to any creature is given, without indulging in sensuality/sexuality and using only self introspection with equanimity. For other trance states see: Trance States. Also Lord Buddha has called all samadhi states as happy states therefore it can be said that by achieving the samadhi states, a person has removed his sorrow/suffering/gloom and now found happiness, this is the objective mentioned in the first step of the Eightfold path(the way leading to cessation of suffering is to experience these samadhi/trance states).
Note2: Some translators are wrongly translating the word samadhi as concentration or something else. Please stop. This is the most important word which means experience of the transcendental states such as Jhana(zen,dhyan). Concentration is only one aspect of samadhi but samadhi is used for awakening. Practically it can be understood as a chick that makes effort & breaks its shell & comes out. If we say that the chick is concentrating then it does not fit.
Note3: Also see Jhana in Abhidhamma Vibhanga-Chap.12-Jhana